When I was in my teens, my first foray into art-making was collage. I would cut out magazine pictures and text and reconstruct them to make something of my own. I drew when I was a child but I never really progressed with the skill -- when I started going to school my days were occupied with lessons and homework and keeping that "crown" of being First Honor Student.
Hence when the urge to create came back full force in my teen years, that period of supposedly finding oneself, I did not feel comfortable enough to make my own from scratch. I did not trust myself to be able to design or imagine anything interesting enough that i can properly translate into physical form. So I borrowed and used the output of others to represent my own. Then I integrated other materials -- cloth, scrapbook papers, found objects. But I was never able to really put together anything that felt right, or that captured what I wanted to show.
I continued to use other people's art and creations to make pieces and in my journals. But magazines change and soon they have less of the kind of images I need. Also they got more expensive. I also began worrying about copyright, and being accused of un-originality. (Today I still use other people's works in my journals to serve as visual pegs and inspiration. But my journals are private so I have less qualms compared to an artwork that I will display.)
Fast forward to two decades later, I am now making my own drawings and have finally managed to break through into some level of progress. But after a while of drawing and painting I wanted more. My ultimate dream of an output is something like the works of Nick Bantock and Barbara Hodgson -- the marriage of words with pictures, but with the pictures much more of my own, especially since I do not have access to the kind of beautiful vintage ephemera that Nick and Barbara are able to work with that render their artworks original and timeless.
I want to be able to integrate other materials into my paintings, even while I am still struggling how I can integrate my words into them. That is also why I am very interested in calligraphy and lettering -- I want my words to have an identity of their own. I have had enough of borrowing or of having to worry about paying for copyrights.
A few days ago, when I was working on a big piece, it occurred to me to introduce sequins into the painting. It would not have occurred to me while working on a small piece because it is easy to fill out the spaces of a small canvas. But a big piece, well, I don't want it to be Zentangly with patterns, but I also don't want gradations of shades to add layer to the wide spaces --- I want consistently bright and strong colours, and I find the Zentangle style too doodly and distracting, and too many of that kind of art is already out there. I want the patterns I use to layer and complement, not to be the main feature.
So, sequins. I love glitter and shimmer and I use a lot of iridescent inks in my paintings to begin with. But wide swathes of just plain ink are also not a good idea. I need layers. And then I also want textures.
I felt good about this last piece. It felt like I was on the right track. And then, something clicked -- it is the next step to evolve my artwork. One step closer to capturing even more accurately the images that have been dancing in my head, the visions of a place where I have always dreamed to visit.
I went to buy more sequins. And I dug out my box of collected found objects and ephemera. Now I know what I have been saving them for.
Then I went to work on an even bigger piece : an 18x18 canvas. When I finished it, that was when I felt that I broken through somehow. That I have made a small but significant step forward. All the time before (since 2012) has been merely practice to be ready for this step. And now I will be practicing a lot more for the next step, until I get to where I need to go. I still need to learn how to work in fabric, ribbons, metal objects, irregularly-shaped objects, and my ever elusive text -- I am planning to look for metallic alphabet stickers, or a way of cutting letters into metallic paper. (Eventually I have ambitious plans of rendering my poems in pieces larger than an A4 paper. And also making giant-sized versions of something like what I do in my journals.) I am thrilled. I am eager to begin again.
I now know what Year it will be next year. This year has been the Year of Serenity, and in many ways it has proven to be so, mainly because I also learned how to flow with what is true. There were lessons of patience, calm, deliberation, awareness, stillness. There were the experiences of relief and quiet joy at finding and being found. Of discovering my own slow rhythms and recognising the gifts within that slowness. There was a lot of inner work, much more than previous years. A lot of inner storms to weather with equanimity while outside there is a semblance of okay-ness.
Next year, it is going to be the Year Of Arrivals.
A marvelous first time for my family to spend Christmas our way. Certainly my kind of introvert party.
We planned for a simple noche buena. I planned for Christmas day, tucked in with a few surprises.
On Christmas eve we went to midnight mass. Upon getting home we exchanged gifts by the Christmas tree. And even though there were just the four of us -- my dad, my mom, my sister, and myself, the room was filled with quiet joy and we were ourselves. There were our meager gifts, far from kingly gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but loaded with thoughtfulness and the kind of love that we rarely express but manifest in the quiet ways of our nature. My surprise was the announcement that we would be having a feast for lunch the next day, and that I could buy my dad's gift on Christmas day instead of having to wait for the last week of January (because of the paycheck fiasco). (An angel of a friend has come forward with a lifeline to help make our Christmas less constrained.)
Then we ended up being five instead of four. My sister's best friend, who has become a dear family friend, joined us, bearing an unbelievable abundance of gifts for the family. We were his family and we were happy to have him.
On Christmas eve and Christmas day I was able to do what I love most to do -- I made art by painting.
On Christmas day I took my parents and sister to lunch at a shabu-shabu and grill buffet. The meal was peaceful, happy, peppered with occasional laughter, cozy, relaxed, generally quiet which made us enjoy it even more. We focused on our food and our just-right conversations -- lots of silent intermissions, unburdened by obligations for small talk, and we were all together at one table, able to eat our fill (mine were lots of squid, baby octopus, lamb bites, and chicken, matched with endless soup of vegetables, oysters, clams, and shrimps), and able to linger at our preferred pace up to dessert and coffee. The smiles on all our faces revealed just how different this Christmas is, and how much more true to the spirit regardless of what other people may think or believe.
After lunch was gift-buying, and then we went off our own ways to indulge in our own interests. This allowance of space and solitude to pursue and practice the callings of our nature is one of the best things about my family. No resentments, no demands, no manipulations. My mom, being currently burdened by her arthritic knee, sought out resting places and struck up conversations with fellow senior adults who were also leaning on their own walking canes, taking a breather. By themselves they found companionship on Christmas even as they are temporarily "out-of-order", and are able to bring solace and comfort to each other. The nicest thing was that after this brief encounter, there was an amiable parting of ways, with no lingering obligations, and no measurements of performance. There was only gratitude.
By mid-afternoon we found the crowds already too thick and noisy and offensive to our introverted natures so we headed for home, where we all had a nap.
Dinner was a simple, regular affair at home. We savoured, again, the quiet and our individual freedoms to do as we pleased. Truly we had a very happy Christmas, and today I am still hung-over with it.
To all who read this post -- may you have had the season you had hoped for, and if not, then there is still this magical week before the new year arrives. May blessings be upon you as they have been upon me and my own. May you be touched by kindness and generosity both ways --- as giver and as receiver. May you find that precious pocket of peace and true happiness, for that pocket will get you through the not-so-good parts (often inevitable for many of us). Go and be an example of peace and a gift of true joy. Every choice, every act we make is the beat of a butterfly's wing that can trigger storms along the way. Let the storms we create be those in the favour of truth, authenticity, and a life by design not default.
My previous post about the Little Things seems to have resonated with more people than I expected -- which makes me very glad to have somehow offered comfort, empathy, and inspiration.
I was a bit scared about sharing that much, about opening up more than I am used to. But I realised that most of the fear was groundless. The worst effect is irrelevance, as far as I am concerned. That people simply would not care or think it worthwhile or important. I am not even considering those who would find it offensive or wrong -- they are not the people I am writing for. What matters is how some people felt less alone and less misunderstood, and how a different perspective offers another way from the default.
Then because of what I opened up and shared, there was a little plot twist.
Remember that I am on a tight budget because of a delayed paycheck? Because of that previous post, someone had come forward to offer a lifeline -- a small loan to help tide me over while I wait for the checks to come through next month. Most unexpected, and much appreciated. I have to admit I was stunned for a few moments. And then I started to recognise the magic afoot. And I am not so foolish as to refuse.
Immediately I felt something that was wound up very tight inside my chest begin to loosen. I never realised it was there. The tightness was such that it had integrated into my bones and behaved like a muscle -- an inner armour to brace myself and keep me strong. A defence mechanism to shore up all the good vibes and energies and positivities against the taunts and temptations of despair and disappointment. The lifeline loan buys me a bit more peace of mind.
Today the doorbell rang and a dear friend I have not seen for a long time was standing right outside the gate with her lovely daughter and they brought me a gift. I was both happily surprised and also caught up in puzzled wonder -- after all these years and then also to pick this particular moment. I posted a shot of the gift on Instagram and my caption captured what I felt:
Once in the while the stars align just so, and streaks of magic connect, and gifts show up unexpectedly at your doorstep.
Much in keeping with my theme of little things -- a pen rest in the form of a cat. A gift that carries much more weight, meaning, knowing, and understanding than it looks. It is a tiny thing, yet it overwhelms me.
When you are on the right track, signs, messengers, and gifts show up. Help shows up.
"Once you have crossed the threshold, if it is really your adventure --- if it is a journey that is appropriate to you deep spiritual need or readiness --- helpers will come along the way to provide magical aid...You are given little tokens that will protect you and keep you on the path."
FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, was true for me when I had a lot of money. Now that I have little money, every decision is certain and deliberate, the purpose and value clear, and thus I have less regret of what I have not chosen, or even what I could not have. I have a better appreciation of the concept of timeliness, and trusting the process.
With the Christmas season, abundance is the theme. So much of everything. Extravagance and luxuries. Hyped-up expressions of joy and love. Noise and loudness. You're weird if you're too quiet. You can't possibly be really HAPPY and MERRY when you're quiet. Big gatherings and social interaction and performances. You're strange if you prefer small groups, worse if you expressed a desire to slip off by your lonesome self for a while. Heaven forbid that you actually want some ALONE time during the holidays. Simplicity is out. Even solemnity is out -- churches have turned themselves into some kind of variety show as extra programs are tacked into the schedule before the midnight mass, children of well-connected parishioners dancing and singing a modernised reinterpretation of the Nativity while cameras flashed and phone screens and tablet screens hovered in the air forcing everyone else to watch through a forest of gadgets. I miss the old days when there was simply a candlelit plain humble reenactment with simple makeshift costumes. Not a grand production. I remember the midnight masses then were held in the open air, and we all shivered in the cold but we were also excited, and we were rapt as we watched the shabbily dressed pair make their way through the crowd and onto the stage. Then the live burst of hallelujahs from the choir when the holy child is revealed from beneath the crafty folds of a blue and white robe, accompanied only by a simple church organ, none of the synthesised earache blasted through speakers. The voices rise over the music, carried out into the night.
Because it is a lean holiday, I have a keener appreciation of every extra that came in, things that I would have received casually if I had money, possibly even dismissed as nothing to get really excited about. It's easy to be that way when you know you have access to "better" things or that you can afford to get more of everything. The little things, the small gestures, tend to get drowned, their preciousness paling amidst the glitter and the fireworks.
I am almost beginning to think that the denial of my paycheck this year was a blessing in disguise to save me from being simply swept away by the mainstream of how things are done. It has been years since I had more than enough money in my hands at one time, and the tendency to be recklessly generous is high when everyone else around you is spending money like there's no tomorrow. Because I cannot spend, I stay mostly at home, only stepping out for errands. I count every coin that I spend. Most of my money has been reserved to provide for my parents' and the household's needs. I have no expectations of help or gifts. I learned a long time ago to just rely on what I can do and the Universe will send along what it sees fit and timely.
When Star Wars came out in the theatres I felt sad. I want to see it. But I cannot afford it. And even while I may be able to scrape the ticket money together, it is a bit sad to watch it alone. I have been secretly wishing someone would ask me out for a free dinner and a movie.
My mom found out and so tomorrow she will be treating me to lunch and then we will watch Star Wars. She said she has been wanting to give me an extra gift for all that I have spent to cover her recent medical bills, and for all that I kept covering for a lot of other things. Apparently she came to some money through gifts so she had more than enough to spare. Consider me like a joyful ten-year-old.
When we visited my grandmother, she gave me handmade gifts, since she also did not have much by way of money to spend on typical big gifts. My favourite is this recycled container tub that she decorated with cloth, fabric flowers, and a painted bird's skull.
Our Noche Buena (the midnight meal on the 24th, after the mass) used to be an overflowing feast. Now we stick to the basics : queso de bola, ham, fruit salad. We eat together, then we open gifts. Our gift-giving is practical as well -- we give each other wishlists to make sure we give what is most needed or wanted. Since we give and receive very, very few gifts, we want to make it count. So for my part, I know what I will get, but I don't know from whom, and if anyone would put in an extra surprise (my dad would sometimes put in a bit of extra cash, or my sister would put it a purely whimsical but also functional piece that alludes to a private joke). We know each other's gift budgets, but somehow that makes the gifts even more precious. We know that after having spent on these gifts, we all had much less for ourselves, or sometimes none at all.
We like the smallness and privacy of our celebration. It is our own tradition, to be by ourselves instead of merging with a bigger group of other families. In the past few years we have participated less and less in family reunions -- they were not what they were supposed to be for us. They were more like duty, and tests for endurance and patience. At some point we began to realise that life is too short to spend in customs that have lost all meaning and value and authenticity.
It will be Christmas Day soon. My pockets are empty. My social calendar is blank. But somehow, I find that my heart is full, and my spirit echoes the brilliance of that certain star in the sky.
"...abundance is not often associated with having little money. Instead we are taught that money IS freedom because it is the basis (we suppose) of free choice. Yet money can also blunt you to the power of simplicity and the potency of your own imagination."
Lately I have been coming across too many "news" of couples getting together, getting engaged, going off to beautiful places to celebrate their togetherness. Heck, even my recent catch-up episodes on my favourite TV series happened to fall into the parts where people finally get together (regardless of how it all turned or twisted afterward) -- Nygma and Miss Kringle, Sheldon and Amy, Oliver Queen and Felicity, Clara Oswald and Danny Pink. I guess when it rains, it does pour. Oh, and the Darkling kisses Alina.
In times like these I burrow into my studio and stuff the empty lonely spaces with dreams brought forth into physical form -- into a painting, a poem, or a story. I coax my patience to keep breathing and not give up nor abandon me. I immerse myself in deep play, to wash myself of all the clinging questions and sadnesses and threats to hope.
"When one enters the realm of deep play, the sacred playground where only the present moment matters, one's history and future vanish."
Stabs of loneliness are sharper with the cold Christmas season, when mass media plays up reunions, reconciliations, and revelations. These scenarios are not part of my daily life. I tend to be a difficult person to keep and keep up with. My greatest gift this year has been finding the Creative Bootcamp Tribe. Otherwise I would have remained adrift and lost in a dissonant sea, cut off from lifelines.
But I still dream of that other kind of belonging. Despite my impossible standards and ideals, Despite my irrational imaginations. Despite my stubborn belief in fairy tales. Everyone else says, be realistic. Well, my grasp of reality has always been tainted by Other Worlds spilling in.
And that now becomes a major theme in the art I am making for the creative exhibit. Heartstorms. Love. Longing. I will conjure them all into visibility. Tangible on paper and canvas. The greater half of a long story-telling that began with a leap into the void. Perhaps even a mating call of a sort. Even if it is like that of a certain type of whale whose song is way below the hearing range of its sought-out partner and thus the partner often misses the call and passes by.
My art and my stories are dreams, often dreams of love, fathered by the King of Dreams himself, dreams that go back nearly twenty years and still very much alive, taking on various forms of manifestation. For the longest time they have stayed on the sidelines, content to be wallflowers, hidden like a secret, perhaps even hidden with a hint of shame. How dare I? To be so bold? To be so brave? To be something else than what I had been expected to be?
"Dreams still fascinate me: the way they color our lives, what they tell us about ourselves and the world we inhabit. And Dream still fascinates me: what he lets himself feel and know, how he lies to himself, how he keeps going."
I was supposed to stay at home and work in the tiny studio but I decided at the last minute that I could not bear to sacrifice the typography book I had put on reserve at the bookshop, under the expectation that I was going to get my paycheck but then I found out too late that I would not.
The reservation was only until today and I had to brave the Christmas rush crowds on a payday weekend in the biggest mall in the city. Layer the heavy traffic and the nonstop rain.
The book was worth it, though. It took a chunky bite out of the money that I have budgeted to last for another four weeks. But a quick scan revealed that it is exactly the kind of reference book I need to grow the seeds for my creative exhibit. I could not risk letting go of it when it is already reserved under my name and it has been so hard to find.
It was one of those crazy choices. Almost like a test. I like to think I passed.
I was angry. My paycheck has been withheld and delayed, most likely to protect the profit margins as the year closes. I have been explicit in my email that I needed the money now, and that I had medical expenses to deal with (my mom has been undergoing treatment for her arthritis). Do you think they cared? Of course not. Not even for the sake of Christmas.
I was so angry I almost cursed them.
But I decided to let karma do the work.
Instead I made today a studio day. Behaved as if there was not any dayjob task to be completed (although there were, but today I did not care one bit).
I gave myself over to the muse. I allowed myself to explore and go deep and not worry about not getting back in time to be responsible and serious about dayjob things. I have no plans of getting back to any dayjob thing today. or tomorrow. Or Sunday.
I finished four sketches for painting. Big ones. My favourite is the one with two owls but which I could not take a photo of because the pencil lines are so light.
I figured I will start painting patterns of pairs and combinations and complements.
It feels so good to just let go.
It's like I gained a huge extra space inside me that makes breathing a lot easier.
I have counted up my remaining money and have set budgets for the rest of the year. We'll survive. There will just be a lot of delays in utility payments. And when the New Year comes in I will have almost empty pockets, possibly just have enough left so I can take a cab to the client presentation on the second week of January. The delayed paycheck comes in on the third week. On the fourth week another paycheck will come in. There will be money for the mundane basic things. Just delayed.
But the delay opens up my hours now. Instead of going to the malls to get swept up in the holiday rush I am staying home to draw and paint and write. Perhaps this is what I am meant to do. A big push of movement in my creative work because it is the only thing left to do. Because I got so angry that I was able to shake off that persistent sense of guilt and worry and stress over the yet-unwritten report that will be due on the second week of January. So angry that I shunned all that had to do with dayjobs and immersed myself in creative work, without guilt, without hesitation.
I feel fine now.
These were my last thoughts last night before I fell asleep, after a long period of struggling to sleep while listening to a playlist titled Circles & Labyrinths. It was cold and my mind was wintering in its own way, and somehow sought warmth in old, comfortable fantasies. A Raven Boy was the closest at hand (at heart), and there happened to be a love song playing and the tail-end of a storm was making the night so very cold.
So I let myself be carried away to an imagined future of a fairy tale ball, only that it was my fairy tale creative exhibit as well, and that somehow along the way of getting to that convergence point of a happily-ever-after, the Raven Boy and I had crossed paths and crossed hearts.
Even as I was busy dreaming this love story there was a part of myself also busy piling up sketches in my already crowded head. Sketches that I have yet to learn how to make. Seeds I have to coax to grow. Seeds that must bear the work that will make that fairy tale creative exhibit come true.
I revisited an old draft of a novel, that was written in an intoxicated state of hope three years ago. It has been nagging for a rewrite as soon as the hangover hit one year later. But I have been pre-occupied with other things and I was not sure how to go about it. The other day I finally opened the dormant file and a whole new perspective on how to tell the story again presented itself.
I loved someone once. Many, many years ago.
Last night I finished this complex big piece -- trust me to subject myself to complex and big at the same time -- and I am generally pleased with the results. Will keep on experimenting though until I hear that unmistakable click in my head of having gotten it exactly right.
I have finally started a sketchbook. Of sorts. Separate from my daily journal which can contain sketches as well as writings and collages and the other variations of manifestations of my thoughts.
My sketchbook is neat, no matter how I tell myself it's okay to mess it up. No matter how I want to mess it up.
I like how it looks though. I like that it looks "serious". That I am more than merely doodling. That I am serious about practicing.
I don't like that it looks like the sketchbook of a frigid rigid person. Of someone holding back. Of someone scared to make mistakes and afraid of taking full leaps. Believe me, I unlock and loosen up at certain phases of the moon and with the right magic words. It has happened before.
But I have to live with the fact that my default is to be orderly. I like my well-defined lines and clean spaces. I was wondering about this the other day (and my current difficulties at attempting a "wilder" execution of my paintings) when a bit of a poem spilled out:
I need my lines.
I need to see the deliberation of
Than merely assuming intentions
From spillovers claiming abstraction.
I want the clarity of shapes and directions,
More than the supposed free and wild almost-pattern
Splashes of colours and nothing in particular,
That could mean anything, possibly
Whatever seems appropriate or trendy at the moment.
I want definitions, rather than guessing games,
That is why my hands are always ink-stained
From writing down the answers to the riddles of a heart,
Charting maps of possibilities for just-in-cases,
Making notes on the margins of my patience.
The One True North has an invisible line,
But a line nonetheless, unerring, always true,
Like a choice, a commitment, despite inevitabilities,
Despite givens. There are no assumptions, but assurance.
I need my lines. Dark and indelible.
Like tattoos on the soul.
(Poem by Marichit Garcia)
I am ripe for falling in love today
I have put down the book I have been reading
Unable to bear the sharp outline of my loneliness
Against a fairy tale going in a direction I have yet to go
In some vague future, a diverging path from the now
That seems to be going only in circles.
A kindness will easily earn a kiss today,
Assuming, of course, that you are
A believer of magic, better yet, if you
Have it in your blood, and your nursery rhymes were
Chanted spells learned from your mother’s lap.
Assuming, of course, that you are
A lover of art, and of poetry, and of books --
The kind that time-travels to what-ifs more than what-was,
The kind that is comfortable with the greys,
And the other awkward colours in between the blacks and whites.
Assuming, of course, that you are
A king of your own kingdom, no, not a prince,
A queenless king ripe for falling in love,
Who has slain enough of his own monsters,
Who has made some level of uneasy peace with his demons.
Go, send forth your knights, your djinns, your ravens,
Send them to find me, I am waiting.
I am missing a shoe, I have been sleeping too long,
The apple’s poison is seeping through my veins,
I cannot find my voice. I am here, cursed in an old woman’s form,
Running after a moving castle.
- Marichit Garcia
I am in search of the beautiful words. I am waiting here, mouth half-open in anticipation, pen poised over paper. I will the words to come to me, to flow through me. Lovely strings that coax life from all that blankness.
See how my own writing is stiff and put together like an awkward ensemble of clothes that are not really my style but which I have to wear because it’s what I have been taught I should wear. I don't like how my prose sounds most of the time. I sound boring, and trying too hard. The effort shows, and the pain of all that effort. I can feel that pain.
Often I don't have the time to just let the words flow, awkward and all until I get to the point when I am just cruising and the writing is happening for real. It takes a while for me to get to that point unlike when I draw or paint. It is very frustrating.
I don't like how my story-telling sounds and feels like a report, without soul. I am a witness but I am unable to convey the truth of what I see. My words are stilted and self-conscious, stiff and clumsy at the same time.
I want to release the true words that are inside me, to get at the core of what I can and need to write. I want to break the walls of the poems and let all the hidden narratives come out, spill over, flood. From being so contained and controlled to becoming a raging storm.
Loosen up more. Stretch out more.
Let a bit more chaos pour in. A handful more of spontaneity.
Soften control but don't lose it.
Keep your spine straight and strong but flexible.
Perfect that balance in your daily life,
An endless flowing spiral not a static state, a dance of synchronicities.
Find your Golden Mean, so you will always regain your center.
Stay true towards your True North. (Find someone going in the same direction.)
Stick to the essentials but don't shun the occasional whimsy.
Distill but remain open to the new,
And never lose the capacity for wonder and fascination.
Discern what (and who) is worthy of your time and resources.
Define with crystal clarity what you want and what you want to be,
But remember to grow towards it, to move. Dream, then do.
The definitions will grow with you, don't be afraid to tweak or twist them as necessary,
It is not cheating. But worrying about what others will say is cheating yourself.
Hone your attention and energy into sharp focus,
Pierce through obstacles and fogs of distraction.
But remain aware, not narrow-sighted. Always be ready and willing
To recognise and take in what (and who) could teach you more of what you need.
Be generous and always be kind,
But never to the point of your own poverty, or compromising your values.
Remember that you can help more if you take care of yourself first,
There are sacrifices that can sow seeds of resentment, be mindful of those.
Be grateful. Be aware of the bad but always count the good with more points.
It is fine to be frustrated for a while, to rant, to weep. But always return to the path and continue the journey.
Share and inspire, be an Agent of Hope. Discourage negativity.
You cannot please everyone. Respond to hate and anger and righteousness with calm.
Know yourself. An examined life is a richer life, a map of possibilities.
Move yourself. Set directions. You can be anywhere, but be certain
That you are where you want, and not just letting yourself be carried away
By everyone else's rules, standards, expectations, or demands.
Always go back to the core of who you are, what you are.
When in doubt always listen to your heart, feel with your soul.
Authenticity begins with yourself, be your own best example.
Don't be afraid, there is still so much hope and magic in the Universe. Believe.
This weekend's challenging question: IDENTIFY AND MAKE A LIST OF DISTRACTIONS THAT GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR CREATIVE WORK AND STOP YOU DOING IT, EVEN WHEN YOU REALLY WANT TO!
After working out strategies to reclaim time I am able to actually have time to be creative, but for this year my main problem is exhaustion/fatigue/sleepiness from extreme tiredness. I have the bit of time but I don't have the energy despite pushing with all my will.
This is most pronounced when I have to do dayjob work because it drains me that much. My brain is like soup after a day of tending to dayjob tasks. My body is pulled by gravity with double the force. Bone-deep tiredness that messes up even my spiritual equilibrium. It is a rather unique effect because housework and regular daily life errands that have nothing to do with dayjob do not tire me out in the same way -- I even include chores in my schedule as a way of "loosening up" for creative work, sometimes even meditative.
But dayjob work in whatever form, taxes my mental, physical, and emotional energies -- the cultivation of the work laugh and the sustenance of the work persona, is a full-on performance for 6-8 hours that leave me good for not much else at the end of the day. The invisible strain of keeping oneself "on-call" for the duration of the weekday office hours. Keeping convincingly alive an old self that should have been laid to rest in a mausoleum somewhere. But this world still needs such characters and it seems I have been tasked to be one, and to continue to do so until such time that I have the means to liberate myself. I have been constantly designing and re-designing the ways I conduct my dayjob work but despite keeping the processes lean and essential, the reality of what it takes out of me cannot be controlled because it is my nature to turn out good, proper work and I cannot abide by short-changing anyone (even when sometimes I am the one short-changed by demands for discounts and unreasonable deadlines). The payment is in my mental power, physical power, emotional power -- a synchronised effort to suspend disbelief as I momentarily set aside some core life values in order to perform for a job that embraces contrary ones.
I have the time, the materials are ready, but my mind and body clamour for rest. It is very difficult to fight that. I can make myself sit in the studio, make myself hold a pen, start digging through the creative ideas that I have no shortage of, and then somehow I find a way of sleeping with my eyes open, a semblance of wakefulness but really a zombie.
Solutions? Coffee does not work, I am immune to it. I'm thinking maybe vitamins? To help stir up energy-producing cells or something. I am extremely lousy with sticking to any exercise routine to increase my stamina, and there is no space at home for yoga or quiet meditation. I do walking rounds when possible but there are very limited places to do so at very limited times in an endlessly bustling city. My need for solitude and silence to fully recharge are very rarely met -- I have been making do with makeshift set-ups and imagination. In the end, I am only able to restock enough energy to get me through the next day, and if a dayjob project uses up that energy I end up with a negative amount --- because the dayjob will always take something more, a painful bite from somewhere else deeper that would have me limping for a while before I regain my balance.
Current temporary solutions I have in attempts to trick a tired mind and body to anything creative:
- naps that last 1-1.5 hours after getting home from dayjob work, then dinner -- this gives me a 1-1.5 hour window to do things like bathe and prepare the work things for the next day, and do the work updates, and then read something that would trigger the creative seeds (I last less than hour before I am dozing off again).
- wake up extra early in the morning to gain an hour for daily pages -- which works for a few days of a project until I get so tired the night before that getting up at all the next working is a pain
- step out and take myself to a restaurant or cafe where I can't sleep, have a meal or coffee while writing or sketching -- the downside is the need to spend, and also, this often only lasts for an hour at most before I had to leave before I embarrass myself by falling asleep in my coffee cup
- I ask family members to do a few chores for me to lessen the tasks that would consume my energy : heating the bath water, cleaning the litter, picking up items in the supermarket, very small tasks that feel humongous when one is running on empty. The saved up energy then goes to something like a half-page scribble in the journal.
So my problem with the temporary solutions is that they still don't yield enough time for anything beyond doodling or random writing --- which are fine for a while but at some point I would feel that Need to do more and make more and produce something more tangible that can be sent out or shared with the world. Endless beginnings with no proper middles nor endings. A certain level of frustration builds up. (Sometimes I start getting cranky.)
I have trimmed down my life to such an extent that every activity has a service or purpose that helps my creativity and self-growth. The exhaustion from dayjob work puts all of that on hold for days if not weeks. So that is my biggest challenge now -- how to overcome the fatigue, how to fight it, so that I am able to make good creative use of the time I have managed to save and reclaim?